The control room of the Navy’s most advanced submarine is filled with sophisticated computers, flat-screen monitors, and sailors who grew up in a digital world.
At times it can look a bit like a video game arcade, and not just because of the high-resolution graphics.
The Navy is beginning to use an Xbox 360 controller — like the ones you find at the mall — to operate the periscopes aboard Virginia-class submarines.
Unlike other types of submarines people are familiar with from Hollywood, Virginia-class submarines don’t have a traditional rotating tube periscope that only one person can look through at a time.
It’s been replaced with two photonics masts that rotate 360 degrees. They feature high-resolution cameras whose images are displayed on large monitors that everyone in the control room can see. There’s no barrel to peer through anymore; everything is controlled with a helicopter-style stick. But that stick isn’t so popular.
“The Navy got together and they asked a bunch of JOs and junior guys, ‘What can we do to make your life better?’ ” said Lt. j.g. Kyle Leonard, the USS John Warner’s assistant weapons officer, referring to junior officers and sailors. “And one of the things that came out is the controls for the scope. It’s kind of clunky in your hand; it’s real heavy.”
Lockheed Martin and Navy officials have been working to use commercial off-the-shelf technology to reduce costs and take advantage of the technological skills sailors grow up with. The integration of the video-game Xbox controller grew out of that effort.
Lockheed Martin refers to the classified research lab in Manassas where testing occurred as the submarine version of “Area 51,” the nickname for the Nevada base where some of the Air Force’s most advanced and secretive projects are tested.
The Xbox controller is no different than the ones a lot of crew members grew up playing with. Lockheed Martin says the sailors who tested the controller at its lab were intuitively able to figure out how to use it on their own within minutes, compared to hours of training required for the joystick.
The Xbox controller also is significantly cheaper. The company says the photonic mast handgrip and imaging control panel that cost about $38,000 can now be replaced with an Xbox controller that typically costs less than $30.
“That joystick is by no means cheap, and it is only designed to fit on a Virginia-class submarine,” said Senior Chief Mark Eichenlaub, the John Warner’s assistant navigator. “I can go to any video game store and procure an Xbox controller anywhere in the world, so it makes a very easy replacement.”
The Navy says that the system has gone through extensive testing over the past two years and that the Xbox controller will be included as part of the integrated imaging system for Virginia-class subs beginning with the future USS Colorado, which is supposed to be commissioned by November.
The Xbox controller will be installed on other Virginia-class submarines, such as the Norfolk-based John Warner, through the normal modernization process, according to Brienne Lang, a spokeswoman for the Navy’s program executive office for submarines. The John Warner had a demonstration model aboard this past week as it transited from Naval Station Norfolk to Groton, Conn.
Eichenlaub said the Navy doesn’t plan on stopping innovation with the Xbox controller, either. The goal is to develop technology that young people already are comfortable with, such as working with electronic touch screens on iPads and in virtual environments.
“Ideally, what they want to see in 10 years down the road is, there’s basically a glass panel display with windows, and you can just pull a window of information, review that, push it off, bring in the next window,” he said.
“They want to bring in sailors with what they have at home on their personal laptop, their personal desktop, what they grew up with in a classroom.”
The M14 is one of the worst DMRs in history, and should have never been adopted by the military.
That’s a powerful statement, but a mostly objective one.
While the M14’s design originated from what General Patton dubbed “The greatest battle implement ever devised” — the M1 Garand — by the 1950s it was already outdated. Military small arms development had seen unparalleled growth throughout World War II and this growth continued into the Cold War.
Listen to the WATM podcast to hear our veteran hosts and a weapons expert discuss the M14 and its replacement:
While Russia was hurriedly developing its first true assault rifle, the AK-47, NATO was still hung up on the concept of a battle rifle. Though this makes perfect sense in retrospect.
Private 1st Class Carlos Rivera, a squad designated marksman with Alpha Company, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, scans his sector while providing security in the district of Spin Boldak, Afghanistan, July 30, 2012. (Photo: US Army)
Experience in WWII and the frozen hell of Korea hammered home the importance of increased firepower without sacrificing range, reliability or power. Hundreds of soldiers reported the smaller M1 Carbine and its light .30-caliber cartridge were ineffective against winter-coat-wearing Chinese and Korean human wave attacks, but the .30-06 M1 never suffered this problem. Interestingly, post-war investigations suggested the M1 Carbine’s light weight and high cyclic rate of fire were more responsible for this lack of stopping power than the cartridge itself — meaning, most soldiers simply missed their targets because of the gun’s recoil.
This is a lesson the Army forgot when it pressed a select-fire .308 rifle into service only a few years later.
Enter, the M14.
The one thing the M14 has going for it, is its method of operation. It’s a long-stroke, piston-driven action that’s very similar to the most prolific, assault rifle in history: the AK-47. Like the AK, the M14’s action can tolerate debris and fouling better than the direct-impingement M16. While the rifle’s hard-hitting 7.62x51mm NATO round is vastly superior to the M16’s 5.56mm at defeating light cover and the dense foliage found in South East Asian jungles, it also makes the rifle very tough to control.
On a side note, carrying a combat load of 7.62 isn’t much fun, and doesn’t offer the average infantryman nearly as much firepower as the same weight in 5.56 rounds.
But that’s not what makes the M14 so awful. It’s the design itself – especially for the role it has been shoehorned into: the Designated Marskman Rifle. The vaunted DMR bridges the gap between the M4 and dedicated sniping weapon systems like the M24. Infantrymen from every branch fielding a DMR in combat have nothing but praise for the guns’ performance in the vast expanses of Iraq and Afghanistan.
So, if soldiers love the gun, it must be pretty decent, right? Sure, so long as the rifle is clamped into a very heavy, expensive chassis and the soldier carrying it never drops it, or touches the handguards. Seriously, disturbing the gun’s bedding – the way it’s glued into a stock — doesn’t just shift point of impact, it reduces overall accuracy. Therein lies the biggest problem with the M14: accurizing the rifle and holding on to that accuracy.
Accuracy is a measure of consistency when it comes to rifles. Given that a DMR must, by definition, extend the effective range of a squad, its DMR needs to reliably hit targets beyond the reach of the infantryman’s standard rifle or carbine. Yet, according to military standards, acceptable accuracy from the M14 is 5.5 inches at 100 yards – a full inch larger than the M16’s standards. While the M14’s 7.62mm round is great for this, the gun is not.
Camp Perry shooters have long since abandoned the M14 because of the difficulty in accurizing the rifle compared to the M16 – and they aren’t alone. The Army noticed the problems and prohibitive costs associated with maintaining M14s in country, which lead to the solicitation of a replacement rifle to meet new specifications for the Semi-Automatic Sniper System program.
Funny thing, the Army decided the M16 was more accurate, and more easily tuned into a sniper rifle – except for the caliber. Which is why the M14 EBR’s replacement, the Mk-11, is built off an AR-10: the 7.62 big brother of the M16.
In all fairness, the Global War on Terror presented a combat theater the U.S. military wasn’t prepared to fight in. Plus, the M14 wasn’t meant to be a sniper or DMR platform when it was developed in the 1950s. Even still, Armalite had been producing civilian and military AR-10 rifles since the late 1950s, and could have just as easily been pressed into service.
Better yet, since the AR-10 shares it’s method of operation with the M16, advancements on one could likely be applied to the other. And, the guns shares the same manual of arms, so no additional training is required for soldiers transitioning from one to the other.
The Civil Irregular Defense Group compound at Loc Ninh. The airstrip is to the right of the photo.
The small town and airbase were important for two reasons. First, the airbase was a logistical hub for military and espionage operations conducted by the U.S.; something communist forces were keen to excise. But the town was also the district capital. With a new president awaiting inauguration in Vietnam, the North Vietnamese wanted to embarrass him before he took office.
And North Vietnam was looking for a tasty target. A new commander and staff needed to try out the 9th Division in the field and build up its combat proficiency ahead of larger, corps-level offensives. So, in late 1967, North Vietnamese Senior Col. Hoang Cam, gave orders to get his regiments in position and supplied for an attack on the base at Loc Ninh.
One of his key units ran into an immediate problem, though. U.S. forces were working to secure a hey highway and clear out communist forces that could threaten it, and they swept through an area where Cam’s top regiment was hiding. That regiment was able to set an ambush just in time and killed 56 Americans, but they also suffered heavy losses and fled to Cambodia.
So Cam was down a regiment before the battle started. Still, his men were facing 11 Special Forces soldiers, 400 Civilian Irregular Defense Group soldiers, and about 200 South Vietnamese regulars. The largest weapons on the base were a few mortars and machine guns.
But the North Vietnamese forces failed to hide their buildup. South Vietnamese and U.S. forces intercepted radio traffic, discovered a field hospital under construction, and discovered elements of a specific unit typically employed in major offensives, the 84A Artillery Regiment.
U.S. Gen. William Westmoreland was too savvy to overlook all this evidence of a coming attack. He suspended some operations and ordered his subordinate to plan for a major defensive operation in that part of Vietnam, especially the district capitals at Loc Ninh and Song Be.
U.S. Special Forces soldiers and South Vietnamese troops in September 1968.
On Oct. 27, 1967, just five days after Westmoreland issued his warning to subordinates, Cam launched the North Vietnamese attack on Song Be. His division attacked a South Korean division but was rebuffed, partially thanks to American artillery and air power. Before South Vietnamese Rangers and American infantry joined the fight the next day, Cam pulled his men back.
As the Rangers looked for the enemy near Song Be, Cam launched a new attack. This time, he struck at Loc Ninh and fully committed to the fight.
Rockets and mortars flew into the base with no warning. The town itself caught on fire, and the South Vietnamese soldiers, with their Special Forces allies, rushed to send their own mortar rounds out.
Before reinforcements could arrive, North Vietnamese sappers blew through a wire obstacle and forced the defenders into the southern part of the compound. With the American and South Vietnamese defense collapsing, the Army rushed in UH-1Bs with machine guns mounted, and the Air Force sent in an AC-47 Spooky gunship that rained metal into the jungle.
The helicopters were able to put some fire on the attackers within the compound, but the AC-47 couldn’t strike there without threatening the defenders. Eventually, that became beside the point, though, as the South Vietnamese called artillery strikes onto the compound. He specifically called for proximity fuses, detonating the rounds a little above the surface to maximize shrapnel damage.
That’s the call you make to shred humans behind light cover. Many of the defenders were in bunkers that would hold back the shrapnel, but the Viet Cong in the open were shredded. The Viet Cong in the jungle finally withdrew under aerial bombing, but attackers remained in the conquered bunkers of the northern part of the compound.
The South Vietnamese were forced to clear these bunkers one-by-one with LAWs, light anti-tank weapons.
The allies found 135 North Vietnamese bodies. They had suffered eight dead and 33 wounded.
But the U.S. knew it had nearly lost the district that night, and it wasn’t willing to go round two with the same setup. So it not only watched the South Vietnamese clear those bunkers, it flew in two artillery batteries and another infantry battalion. Those infantrymen dug into the jungle and established light bunkers.
The U.S. and South Vietnamese alliance struck hard, rooting out platoons in the rubber plantations. In one case, an impatient South Vietnamese soldier grabbed a U.S. officer’s pistol from him and used it to attack a North Vietnamese machine gunner. When he couldn’t chamber a round in the pistol, he used it to pistol-whip the machine gunner instead.
This back and forth continued for days. On Oct. 30, the North Vietnamese sent additional forces to threaten other cities and positions, potentially trying to draw away some of the American defenders. But the allies knew the fight for Loc Ninh wasn’t over and sent other forces to protect Song Be and other locations.
Just after midnight on Oct. 31, another rain of mortars and rockets flew into Loc Ninh. But this time, the fire was more accurate, and North Vietnamese forces used anti-aircraft fire the moment the helicopters and AC-47 showed up. But proximity fuses were again used to slaughter North Vietnamese attackers.
At least 110 North Vietnamese were killed while the allies lost nine killed and 59 wounded.
The next night, artillery and machine gun fire rained onto the air base, but then the main thrust came at the new infantry base in the jungle. Observers posted in the jungle detonated claymores to blunt the attack but then had to melt away as the attackers continued their assault. The U.S. infantry pushed the attack back in just 30 minutes of concentrated machine gun fire and claymore use.
One U.S. soldier had been killed and eight wounded. Over 260 bodies were found, and there were signs that even more had been lost.
Additional forces were flown in, and the U.S. commanders were finally able to go on the attack. The attacks did not go perfectly, however. On Nov. 7, a U.S. battalion moving down a dirt road moved into the jungle and came under a furious assault. An RPG took out most of the U.S. battalion command team, including the commander.
One soldier in that fight was Spc. Robert Stryker who stopped one attack with a well-aimed M79 grenade launcher shot, but then died after diving on a grenade to save others. He’s one of the two Medal of Honor recipients for whom the Stryker vehicle is named.
But the 9th Division finally withdrew, ending the Battle of Loc Ninh. The U.S. had lost 50 dead and hundreds wounded, but the North Vietnamese lost somewhere over 850 dead and failed in its objectives to take either Loc Ninh or Song Be. But the Tet Offensive was on the horizon.
(Most of the information for this article came from an official Army history from the Center of Military History, Combat Operations: Staying the Course, October 1967 to September 1968 by Erik B. Villard. It is available here.)
Modern drones, like the MQ-1 Predator, MQ-9 Reaper, or even the quadcopters you can buy at your local electronics store have changed how we think about unmanned vehicles. But drones have been around a lot longer than you might think. One of the most versatile unmanned vehicles entered service in 1952 (the same year the B-52 first flew) and is still around today.
That is the BGM-34 Firebee. First built by Teledyne, Northrop Grumman now operates this versatile and venerable drone. The BGM-34C has a top speed of 472 miles per hour, a maximum range of 875 miles, and can operate as high as 50,000 feet.
The Firebee could be launched from ground, sea, or air. The C-130 is carrying two Firebees to give the crew of USS Chosin (CG 65) some practice.
(USAF photo by TSGT Michael Haggerty)
The Firebee was initially intended to serve as an aerial target. Yes, there are old fighters that serve in this role, but when you have to have enough pilots for the 1,983 tactical jets on inventory with the Air Force alone (per FlightGlobal.com’s World Air Forces 2018), something has to fill the gap. Many Firebees made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that missiles worked and pilots knew how to use them.
Fortunately, many of drones can be recovered via parachute and are re-used. This saved money for the times in which pilots missed or when tests didn’t involve blowing something out of the sky. But the Firebee hasn’t always been a turbojet-powered clay pigeon.
While some Firebees were blown up as target drones, others were recovered and used again.
(USAF photo by TSGT Frank Garzelnick)
During the Vietnam War, some were modified for use as reconnaissance drones. Outfitted with cameras and datalinks, these drones were able to provide real-time intelligence. If they were shot down, there was no need to send in a CSAR chopper to get a pilot out. Versions were also developed for electronic warfare, and they even considered making it an anti-ship missile. The Firebee even saw use during Operation Iraqi Freedom in laying down chaff to cover modern strike aircraft.
Learn more about this versatile and venerable drone in the video below!
The Marine Corps will now require most of its troops to wear a single camouflage uniform during both summer and winter months, changing a post-9/11-era rule that allowed Marines the option to don either a desert pattern uniform or a woodland one.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller addresses Marines wearing the woodland MARPAT cammie uniform. (Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)
In a Corpswide administrative message issued Dec. 8, Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller ordered most Marines at bases and stations in the U.S. and overseas to wear the green, brown and black woodland pattern camouflage uniform in all seasons.
Neller said in All Marine Corps Message 038/16 that Marines must wear their uniforms with the sleeves rolled down in the winter — marked by the end of daylight savings time — and rolled up in the warmer months when the clocks change again.
“This ALMAR prescribes the seasonal uniform change and applies to all Marines and Navy personnel serving with Marine Corps units,” Neller said. “The seasonal uniform transitions will occur semi-annually on the weekend in the Fall and Spring concurrent with change to and from Daylight Saving Time.”
The order does allow for commands to adapt to weather and missions that would make the desert cammies more appropriate for Marines to wear, including for Leathernecks in boot camp, in officer training or readying for deployment.
“MARFOR Commanders, due to the breadth of their area of responsibility, are authorized to set policy/guidance that may vary throughout their region, to include the adjustment of dates of transition and the respective [Marine combat uniform] for wear,” Neller said.
The new policy reverses a trend that began after Operation Iraqi Freedom and was officially adopted in 2008 to switch between the tan desert MARPAT uniform in the summer and the woodland green MARPAT in the winter months. Many Marines saw wearing the desert uniform on bases on installations in the U.S. and overseas as a tribute to their deployed brethren in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The order also says Marines will wear the Service “B” uniform with long-sleeve shirt in the cooler months, with Service “C” short-sleeve uniform in the warmer months.
The order was to take effect for all Marine commands Dec. 8.
The last time a Navy SEAL team used x-ray as an identifier was when the unit deployed to the Mekong Delta area in late 1970. Lt. Cmdr. Mike Walsh was a SEAL in Vietnam during the war. He was wounded at Ben Tre while serving with SEAL Platoon X-Ray in February 1971. In an interview with Vietnam Magazine, Walsh called X-Ray “the most hard-luck SEAL platoon to serve in Vietnam.”
Immediately after their arrival, things started to go awry. A SEAL team inserted near Truc Giap was ambushed that same month, December 1970. The squad leader and another SEAL were killed while the radioman and Kit Carson scout (former VC who turned on the Communists and act as scouts for U.S. infantry units) were hit. If it weren’t for the rear security man, the unit would have been wiped out entirely.
Radioman 2nd Class Harold Baker ran into a river to get out of the kill zone. He fished out the body of a fellow SEAL as well as an M-60, and then fought his way through the ambush until backup from X-Ray could arrive.
An operation in Ben Tre, the one where Walsh was injured, saw the unit lose a couple of SEALs and a number of limbs. It was during a patrol led by a “Hoi Chanh” or a defector from the Viet Cong (VC), similar to the Kit Carson scouts who was leading the way. He led the SEALs on a sweep and destroy mission, and then into a trap.
“I did not trust him at all. He was there to get us killed,” Welsh said. “And he almost did it. I didn’t like it; I had a bad feeling about it. But we went on patrol with this guy leading the way.”
The defector had come to the SEALs by way of the Chieu Hoi amnesty program. Chieu hoi, which loosely translates into “open arms,” was an effort by the South Vietnamese government to get VC members to defect to the South and offer information against the Viet Cong. It was essentially an amnesty program. An estimated 75,000 defection occurred by 1967, but less than a quarter of those were deemed genuine. Some did genuinely contribute to the war effort with some earning medals as high as a Silver Star, but the defector with X-Ray was not one of those achievers.
The SEALs on the patrol at Ben Tre found and destroyed some bunkers before being extracted by a light SEAL support craft (LSSC). As the boat was leaving, the VC attacked the SEALs, hitting the LSSC with a B-40 rocket. One of the boatmen lost a leg, and a South Vietnamese interpreter lost both. Lt. Cmdr. Walsh was lifted off the boat and stuck with shrapnel. Another SEAL’s grenades went off while strapped to his body, taking the man’s right glute. One SEAL, Ed Jones, fired a .50 cal into the VC position and they took off. Walsh found the defector injured by shrapnel.
“He looked at me and smiled,” Walsh remembered. “He knew he had led us into an ambush and he had succeeded. I finished him off with my Gerber knife.”
The team had to be extracted by helicopter, where one of the SEALs died from his wounds.
Finally, on March 4th, 1971, the unit commander, Lieutenant Michael Collins, an Annapolis graduate who had never taken SEAL cadre training, was killed in Kien Hoa province. The unit was deactivated after that, with all of its members either killed or wounded.
The reason for the high cost of X-Ray is considered to be operational security. Experts believe the unit’s tactical operations center was compromised by one of its South Vietnamese commandos who had been giving information to the Communists. The enemy knew of all of X-Ray’s movements well in advance.
Everyone knows that when Navy SEALs arrive at their target, they can do some serious ass-kicking. But how they get to the point of attack is changing – and becoming more high-tech.
According to a report from TheDrive.com, the Combatant Craft Assault has been stealthily prowling the battlefield, giving SEALs new capabilities to insert into hostile territory and then make a clean getaway.
The CCAs reportedly took part in Eager Lion, a joint exercise in Jordan, and also got a moment in the spotlight when Army Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of United States Central Command took a training ride in one.
According to AmericanSpecialOperations.com, the CCA is 41 feet long, and is capable of carrying M240 medium machine guns, M2 heavy machine guns, and Mk-19 automatic grenade launchers. The boat is also capable of being air-dropped by a C-17A Globemaster, making it a highly flexible asset.
These boats can operate from the well decks of Navy amphibious ships or afloat staging bases like USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) and USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-ESB 3), which departed this past June for a deployment to the Persian Gulf region.
The craft reached full operational capability this year. While initially built by United States Marine, Inc., Lockheed Martin is now handling maintenance of these boats, which are manned by Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewmen. Two other stealthy special-ops boats, the Combatant Craft Medium and the Combatant Craft Heavy, are reportedly in various stages of development and/or deployment to the fleet.
The Army has successfully fired a 155mm artillery round 62 kilometers — marking a technical breakthrough in the realm of land-based weapons and progressing toward its stated goal of being able to outrange and outgun Russian and Chinese weapons.
“We just doubled the range of our artillery at Yuma Proving Ground,” Gen. John Murray, Commanding General of Army Futures Command, told reporters at the Association of the United States Army Annual Symposium.
Currently, most land-fired artillery shot from an M777 Towed Howitzer or Self-Propelled Howitzer are able to pinpoint targets out to 30km — so hitting 62km marks a substantial leap forward in offensive attack capability.
Murray was clear that the intent of the effort, described as Extended Range Cannon Artillery, is specifically aimed at regaining tactical overmatch against Russian and Chinese weapons.
“The Russian and Chinese have been able to outrange most of our systems,” Murray said.
Citing the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a “wake-up call,” Murray explained that Russian weaponry, tactics and warfare integration caused a particular concern among Army leaders.
A soldier carries out a mission on an M777 howitzer during Dynamic Front 18 at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, March 8, 2018.
(Army photo by Warrant Officer 2 Tom Robinson)
“In Ukraine, we saw the pairing of drones with artillery, using drones as spotters. Their organizational structure and tactics were a wake up call for us to start looking at a more serious strategy,” Murray explained.
The Army’s 2015 Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy specifically cites concerns about Russia’s use of advanced weapons and armored vehicles in Ukraine.
“The Russians are using their most advanced tanks in the Ukraine, including the T-72B3, T-80, and T-90. All of these tanks have 125mm guns capable of firing a wide range of ammunition, including anti-tank/anti-helicopter missiles with a six-kilometer range, and advanced armor protection, including active protection on some models,” the strategy writes.
ERCA is one of several current initiatives intended to address this. Accordingly, the Army is now prototyping artillery weapons with a larger caliber tube and new grooves to hang weights for gravity adjustments to the weapon — which is a modified M777A2 mobile howitzer. The new ERCA weapon is designed to hit ranges greater than 70km, Army developers said.
“When you are talking about doubling the range you need a longer tube and a larger caliber. We will blend this munition with a howitzer and extend the range. We are upgrading the breach and metallurgy of the tube, changing the hydraulics to handle increased pressure and using a new ram jet projectile — kind of like a rocket,” a senior Army weapons developer told Warrior Maven in a 2018 interview.
The modification adds 1,000 pounds to the overall weight of the weapon and an additional six feet of cannon tube. The ERCA systems also uses a redesigned cab, new breech design and new “muzzle brake,” the official explained.
“The ERCA program develops not only the XM907 cannon but also products, such as the XM1113 rocket assisted projectile, the XM654 supercharge, an autoloader, and new fire control system,” an Army statement said.
Soldiers fire an M777A2 howitzer while supporting Iraqi security forces near al-Qaim, Iraq, Nov. 7, 2017.
(Army photo by Spc. William Gibson)
As part of an effort to ensure the heavy M777 is sufficiently mobile, the Army recently completed a “mobility” demonstration of ERCA prototypes.
The service demonstrated a modified M777A2 Howitzer with an integration kit for the mass mock-up of the modified XM907 ERCA cannon at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona.
“Their [user] concern is that when the self-propelled program is done they will be left with a towed cannon variant that they can’t tow around, which is its number one mode of transportation,” David Bound, M777ER Lead, Artillery Concepts and Design Branch, which is part of the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC, said in an Army statement in 2018.
The ERCA is currently being configured to fire from an M109a8 Self-Propelled Howitzer, using a 58-Cal. tube; the existing M109a7, called the Paladin Integrated Management, fires a 39-Cal. weapon.
ERCA changes the Army’s land war strategic calculus in a number of key respects, by advancing the Army’s number one modernization priority — long-range precision fires.
This concept of operations is intended to enable mechanized attack forces and advancing infantry with an additional stand-0ff range or protective sphere with which to conduct operations. Longer range precision fire can hit enemy troop concentrations, supply lines and equipment essential to a coordinated attack, while allowing forces to stay farther back from incoming enemy fire.
A 70-kilometer target range is, by any estimation, a substantial leap forward for artillery; when GPS guided precision 155mm artillery rounds, such as Excalibur, burst into land combat about ten years ago — its strike range was reported at roughly 30 kilometers. A self-propelled Howitzer able to hit 70-kilometers puts the weapon on par with some of the Army’s advanced land-based rockets — such as its precision-enabled Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System which also reaches 70-kilometers.
In a modern threat environment, wherein near-peer and smaller-level rivals increasingly possess precision-guided land weapons, longer-range C4ISR technology and drone weapons, increasing range is a ubiquitous emphasis across the Army and other services. Russia’s violations of the INF treaty, new S-500 air defenses, new Armata tanks and fast growing attack drone fleet — are all areas of concern among US Army weapons developers.
The T-14 Armata tank in the 2015 Moscow Victory Day Parade.
(Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)
In fact, senior Army developers specifically say that the ERCA program is, at least in part, designed to enable the Army to out-range rival Russian weapons.
The Russian military is currently producing its latest howitzer cannon, the 2S33 Msta-SM2 variant; it is a new 2A79 152mm cannon able to hit ranges greater than 40km, significantly greater than the 25km range reachable by the original Russian 2S19 Msta — which first entered service in the late 1980s, according to data from globalsecurity.org.
Earlier in 2018, statements from the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation said that 2S19 Msta-S modernized self-propelled howitzers were fielded near Volgograd, Russia.
The 2S19 Msta-S howitzers are equipped with an automated fire control system with an increased rate of fire, digital electronic charts, ballistic computers and satellite navigation systems, the report says.
Therefore, doing the simple math, a 70km US Army ERCA weapon would appear to substantially outrange the 40km Msta-S modern Russian howitzer.
While senior Army weapons developers welcome the possibility of longer-range accurate artillery fire, they also recognize that its effectiveness hinges upon continued development of sensor, fire control and target technology.”Just because I can shoot farther, that does not mean I solve the issue. I have to acquire the right target. We want to be able to hit moving targets and targets obscured by uneven terrain,” the senior Army developer said.
In a concurrent related effort, the Army is also engineering a adaptation to existing 155mm rounds which will extend range an additional 10km out to 40km.
Fired from an existing Howitzer artillery cannon, the new XM1113 round uses ram jet rocket technology to deliver more thrust to the round.
“The XM1113 uses a large high-performance rocket motor that delivers nearly three times the amount of thrust when compared to the legacy M549A1 RAP,” Ductri Nguyen, XM1113 Integrated Product Team Lead.” “Its exterior profile shape has also been streamlined for lower drag to achieve the 40-plus kilometers when fired from the existing fielded 39-caliber 155mm weapon systems.”
Soldiers can also integrate the existing Precision Guidance Kit to the artillery shells as a way to add a GPS-guided precision fuse to the weapon. The new adapted round also uses safer Insensitive Munition Explosives.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
It started out as an unguided air-to-air rocket. Then, someone had the idea to put a sensor on it that could pick up the heat put out by an airplane’s engine. Add a control system and you’ve got yourself an effective, deadly missile — one that has been relied upon for decades by American pilots and their allies.
That missile is the AIM-9 Sidewinder, and it’s come a long way since its combat debut in 1958. The Taiwanese scored this missile’s first kill when it was carried on and fired by North American F-86 Sabre fighters. Today, the missile is a key part of the weapons suite for the Lockheed F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning stealth fighters.
The AIM-9 wasn’t even called AIM-9 when it was being designed. Its original name was the AAM-N-7, which is fairly decipherable for those familiar with missile naming conventions. It was designed as an Air-to-Air Missile (AAM) for use by the Navy (N) and it was the seventh in the sequence (7). The old naming system was in use until 1963, when it was replaced by the one used today.
The missile was solely a Navy weapon for its first few years. The United States Air Force backed the GAR-2 Falcon, which later got the designation AIM-4. Eventually, the Navy’s missile won out and the Air Force adopted it.
Since then, the Sidewinder has been one missile that American pilots can rely on. During the Vietnam War, it scored 82 kills. The missile also saw action in the Falklands War, Desert Storm, and even scored the first air-to-air kill for the F/A-18E Super Hornet over Syria. The missile has gone from a short-range (maximum range of 2.6 nautical miles for the AIM-9B) tail-chase missile to an all-aspect medium-range (22 nautical miles) missile in the form of the AIM-9X.
The AIM-9X will be around for a long time, with an improved version of the missile slated to enter service in 2022.
Learn more about the Sidewinder in the video below:
ISIS talks a big game in posting propaganda videos on the internet, especially at the height of its power in 2014 – 2015. But one GoPro slamcam video, captured by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces and posted to YouTube shows, ISIS fighters aren’t always the hardcore soldiers ISIS says they are.
A warning: although most of the video just shows ISIS fighters under intense SDF fire, some of the images can get graphic.
The video is part of the “War Diary” project, an educational documentary project to archive real events in combat by the people who fought there. It features a squad of ISIS fighters directly engaged in combat with the Kurdish SDF. The GoPro camera appears to be attached either to a helmet of a squad commander or strapped to his chest. The commander, Abu Ayman al-Iraqi, is accompanied by a fighter named Abu Aisha Iraqi, who keeps telling the man in charge that they should retreat.
Abu Aisha, you can probably guess, was right about getting out of there. The Kurds were coming at the ISIS fighters with fire so intense, the jihadis couldn’t even look at where they were shooting back. The ISIS commander has to order his men repeatedly to shoot back instead of fleeing. When he orders a grenade or RPG, his troops stay motionless with fear.
If you don’t understand Arabic, that’s okay. The Kurds translated the video for you.
The confrontation took place in Syria’s Deir Ez-Zor Province in December 2018. It was part of a greater campaign by the SDF to push ISIS forces back across the Euphrates River, eliminate its fighters from the Iraqi border, and capture all remaining ISIS strongholds. It happened at the same time as the SDF push to capture the ISIS capital at Raqqa and the Syrian government’s push against the jihadist group in Western Syria. The result of the combined campaigns was the final defeat of ISIS as a formal army, occupying any territory.
In the video, you can see hear the frustration of the commander as his troops fail to shoot back, forget their weapons, and abandon an armored vehicle to escape the oncoming enemy. Even the ISIS commander begins to fumble with his AR-15 as the Kurds get closer. Abu Ayman Iraqi gets shot around 9:00. his men desert him in the armored vehicle as he shouts at them to come back.
While everyone knows about Pearl Harbor, what most don’t remember was that Japan tried hard throughout World War II to hit the U.S. mainland.
Tokyo ended up using very old technology – hot air balloons – to deliver bombs to the United States.
The genesis of this attack was the Doolittle Raid of 1942. The attack had caused the Japanese military to lose face, so they resolved to strike back. After several bomber projects failed, Tokyo turned to what they called the fūsen bakudan, or “fire bomb.” Manufactured primarily by teenage girl laborers, over 9,000 of these balloons were sent America’s way, according to WarHistoryOnline.com, with the goal of creating forest fires to draw American resources away from the front.
In what may be the first intercontinental weapon in military history – the fūsen bakudan, or fire balloon. Japan produced 9,3000 of them. (Youtube Screenshot)
First launched in November 1944, the balloon bombs reached as far east as Detroit, Michigan. These 30-foot balloons used the jet stream to reach America. American and Canadian fighter pilots saw some of them, and shot down about 20. Many others were seen to come down, and at least seven were recovered by the U.S. Army.
The United States covered up knowledge of the ICBM precursor — mostly fool Japan into thinking the balloons weren’t making it to the mainland. Speculation centered around the internment camps and submarines, but geologists traced the sand in the sandbags to Japan.
Only one of the bombs caused any fatalities. On May 5, 1945, a minster, Archie Mitchell, and his wife took five Sunday School students on an outing to the forest. Mrs. Mitchell and the students then found the balloon while Rev. Mitchell was still at the car. The bomb detonated while the students were trying to drag it out, and Mrs. Mitchell and all five students were either killed or later died of their wounds.
An Army investigation determined the balloon bomb had been in the area for weeks before it blew.
The tragedy surrounding that outing was the only balloon attack that was publicized by the military. As a result, Japan cancelled the program. America’s media blackout had worked. Only 300 of the balloon bombs were seen in the United States, according to a 1995 Salt Lake Tribune article. One bomb was found in Canada in 2014, and detonated by EOD personnel.
Check out this National Geographic video for more details of Japan’s WW2 ICBMs.
‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.
~ Modern Day Charm Jewelry from the Sisters of the Tactical Pants* ~
The Dellavalle sisters, whose origin story is pleasingly similar to that of another of our favorite vetrepreneur sister acts, founded Stella Valle together after Paige graduated from West Point and Ashley finished her five year stint in the Army. They hold it down for the feminine in both military and business affairs.
Though neither had any experience in jewelry design or manufacturing, much less the business of fashion, they bootstrapped their own line of charms and accessories, eventually scoring successful trunk shows at Bloomingdale’s and Henri Bendel. In 2013, on the strength of their early sales (and their Army-forged determination), they took their act to Shark Tank, walking away from that encounter with a joint deal with Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner.
At the heart of the Stella Valle aesthetic is the push-pull between warrior values and womanhood. There’s is a very feminine version of a soldier’s civilian transition story. They strive to make jewelry that honors what they accomplished in the military, even as it allows them reclaim the feminine freedom their service helped to protect. Their stackable charm bracelets are designed to help you spell out your own individual story and wear it proudly.
You have, by some miracle, managed to secure the ongoing attentions of a woman who is both cooler than you in every way and is willing, saint-like, to put up with your foolishness. And yes, if you read that and thoughtwe must be talking about your mother, that means we are talking about your mother. Stack some Stella Valle charm bracelets and use them to send her a communique about how you feel about the light she brings to your life.
Because any woman who loves you has to be a warrior.
The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.
Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.
Army scientists, working with officials from the National Football League, have developed a wearable device that helps reduce head and neck injuries.
The Rate-Activated Tether, is a flexible strap that connects a helmet to shoulder pads or body armor, said Shawn Walsh of the Weapons and Material Research Directorate at Army Research Laboratory.
“What happens is if that when head is exposed to adverse acceleration, this RAT strap will basically transition into a rigid device that will transmit the load to the body, and it has been proven to significantly reduce acceleration,” Walsh told defense reporters at a recent roundtable discussion sponsored by Program Executive Office Soldier.
Over the years, the Defense Department has partnered with the NFL and the National Collegiate Athletic Association to research brain injuries. For example, the Army beginning in 2007 put blast sensors into tens of thousands of helmets to monitor head injuries from roadside bombs in Afghanistan. And the Pentagon and NCAA in 2014 announced a joint study into concussions.
Army scientists are not sure if the device will eliminate Traumatic Brain Injury or concussions, but “we can say with some confidence that there is some benefit to reducing adverse acceleration,” Walsh said.
The device could help to prevent head injuries sometimes experienced by paratroopers, Walsh said.
“It is a known fact that paratroopers do experience head injuries,” he said. “They are trained to land very carefully, but sometimes at night, in the rain or in irregular terrain and something goes just a little off, they can land on their head,” he said. “There is some very real Army applications associated with that as well.”
Army officials also discussed more long-term science and technology initiatives such as a project to design robots that could one day deploy shields to protect soldiers in a firefight.
“Part of our job at the research center is to kind of try to push the Army out of its comfort zone,” Walsh said. “One of the things we are exploring now is robotics.”
An effort known as Robotic Augmented Soldier Protection is designed to shadow soldiers and deploy a protective shield when an attack occurs, Walsh said.
“A lot of people associate robotics with lethality, but what we are looking at is can we use robotics in a purely protective mode?” Walsh said. “Can we use these robotics to deploy protective mechanisms … that can work to protect a human?”
What is lacking right now is the science, Walsh said, adding that the Army is trying to work with the academic community on the effort.
Army officials that develop soldier requirements at the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia are also interested in the concept, said Col. Curt “Travis” Thompson, director of the Soldier Division at Training and Doctrine Command’s Capability Manpower – Soldier.
“We are the closest touchpoint to the soldiers who are out in the field … but that doesn’t mean that we are the closest touch point to the realm of the possible or where we should be going,” he said. “We absolutely rely on ARL to kind of inform us to what is possible.”
The service’s leadership has shown interest in the effort, Walsh said.
“The Army is encouraging us; we were actually down at Fort Benning,” Walsh said. “They want to see more prototyping. They want to be introduced to these concepts as soon as possible.”
While still a fledgling effort, ARL does have a working prototype, he said.
“We are not saying that every soldier would have one,” Walsh said. “This is only useful in certain scenarios.”